Articles

Kevin Nash says 'Magic Mike XXL' cast reminds him of his Army squad


Can you spot the Army vet? Kevin Nash (far left) with two other dudes having trouble keeping their pants up. (Warner Bros. photo)

Kevin Nash went to the University of Tennessee for one reason: to play basketball, and for three years that's pretty much what he did. Nash played center, and as a junior he helped the team advance to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. But one physical altercation with legendary coach Don Devoe later, he was gone.

Nash made his way to Europe to play professionally, but during a game in Germany he injured his anterior cruciate ligament, which immediately ended his basketball career. Out of any better ideas, he decided to try something he'd always wanted to do: He joined the Army.

After going through basic at Fort McClellan, Nash wound up assigned to the 202nd Military Police Company in Giessen, Germany and served in a secure NATO facility for two years.

"I enjoyed the life," Nash said. "I was forced to be disciplined, and that was something I'd lacked to that point to a certain degree."

Nash hanging with Army buds in Germany circa '82.

During his three years of military service, Nash rose to the rank of specialist.

"I liked it so much I thought about going to be a drill instructor," he said. But ultimately he decided not to reenlist. Family matters – including his father's failing health – took him back to his hometown of Detroit. After working on the assembly line at Ford Motor Company for a while, he decided to enter the world of professional wrestling.

Nash debuted in WCW as the orange-mohawked "Steel", one half of the tag team known as the "Master Blasters." His success right out of the gate was followed by more, adopting different personas and adjusting to changes in the organizations around him. He went from "Steel" to "Oz" to "Vinne Vegas" to "Diesel" before going back to his real name.

"The secret to being a pro wrestler, besides having physical abilities, is to pick a good personality," Nash said. "The closer it is to you the better."

And as he changed names he went from WCW to WWF and back again a few times before joining the WWE and, finally, signing on with Global Force Wrestling as a "legend" to help promote events and tours.  In the process he became one of the industry's most popular wrestlers. His career culminated with him being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2015.

Nash also has a host of acting credits on his resume. Beside appearing in movies and on TV, his voice has been used in video games and cartoons. Last year he appeared in "John Wick" with Keanu Reeves, and this year he reprises his role as Tarzan in "Magic Mike XXL."

"Of all the things I've done, the 'Magic Mike' series most resembles the comradery of Army life," Nash said. "Working with the other guys reminds me of being in a squad." The producers even had the cast do weapons training together as a team-building exercise.

"Magic Mike XXL" was filmed in Savannah, Georgia, which worked out well for Nash as he now makes his home in Daytona, Florida. "Besides, I like to spend as little time as possible in L.A.," he added.

Nash is happy with the results in the sequel. "It's better than the first one," he said. "There's a lot more going on. It's more of a road trip and not just hanging in the club."

"Magic Mike XXL" opens nationwide on July 1.

Now: This 1970 training video shows how the Army used to be like 'Mad Men' >

History

This pilot shot down an enemy fighter at Pearl Harbor in his pajamas

Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it's hot on the work site, it's important to stay cool. If it's hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.

Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army's aircraft on the ground.

Damaged aircraft on Hickam Field, Hawaii, after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.

By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.

Pearl Harbor pilots Harry Brown, Phil Rasmussen, Ken Taylor, George Welch, and Lewis Sanders.

They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.

The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol' martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.

Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.

There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A's fuselage.

Skillz.

Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

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